Evidence shows many coastal cities are sinking

According to a Dutch research team, evidence shows that many coastal cities around the world are now sinking at a rate up to ten times that of sea level rise. The researchers state that, without action, parts of Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok and numerous other coastal cities will sink below sea level, hence becoming much more vulnerable to flooding.

In addition, differential land movement causes significant economic losses in the form of structural damage and high maintenance costs. This effects roads and transportation networks, hydraulic infrastructure – such as river embankments, sluice gates, flood barriers and pumping stations -, sewage systems, buildings and foundations. The total damage worldwide is estimated by the researchers at billions of dollars annually.

The main cause of severe land subsidence is excessive groundwater extraction after rapid urbanization and population growth is the main cause of severe land subsidence. In addition, coastal cities are often faced with larger natural subsidence, as they are built on thick layers of soft soil.

The researchers state that there is a need for an integrated approach in order to manage subsidence and to develop appropriate strategies and measures that are effective and efficient on both the short and long term. Urban groundwater management, adaptive flood risk management and related spatial planning strategies are just examples of the options available. A major rethink is needed to deal with the ‘hidden’ but urgent threat of subsidence.

A detailed abstract of the paper is available at http://media.egu.eu/media/documents/2014/11/gilles_erkens_scientific_abstract.pdf

US EPA Administrator gives a plug to science as a policy tool

Under the headline Science & EPA: From Cutting Edge to Commonplace, Gina McCarthy, Head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, yesterday put in a plug for science as a key policy tool. She wrote:

  • Science has been the backbone of the most significant advancements EPA has made in the past four decades and continues to be the engine that drives American prosperity and innovation for the future.
  • Through science, we uncovered secondhand smoke’s deadly link to lung disease.
  • We set air quality standards to protect our children, our elderly, and our infirmed.
  • Through science we learned that toxic fumes from leaded gasoline harm our kids’ brain development.
  • With science as our North Star, EPA has steered America away from health risk, and toward a higher quality of life. That’s why it’s worrisome that our science is under assault by a very small—but very vocal —group of critics.
  • Those critics are playing a dangerous game by discrediting the sound science our families and our businesses depend on everyday – And that’s what doesn’t make sense.
  • I bet when those same critics get sick, they run to doctors and hospitals that rely on science.
  • I bet they check out air quality forecasts from EPA and the National Weather Service—to see if their kids should be playing outside.
  • I bet they buy dishwashers with Energy Star labels, take FDA approved medicine, and eat USDA approved meats.
  • To those calling EPA untrustworthy and unpopular—I’d like to remind them that without EPA, they wouldn’t have safe drinking water or healthy air. And we have these things because we follow the science—like the law demands.
  • In addition to ensuring public health, businesses are able to keep their competitive edge on the global stage because science fosters innovation.
  • From smoke-stack scrubbers to catalytic converters—America inspires and innovates the world’s leading pollution control technologies – accounting for more than one and a half million jobs and $44 billion dollars in exports in 2008 alone. That’s more than other big U.S. sectors like plastics and rubber products.
  • I want to encourage us to continue putting our faith in American ingenuity and innovation.
  • The great thing is—our environmental laws recognize the need to cultivate that innovation.
  • When we follow the science—we all win. We all move forward. We have to keep trusting the leading role of science in America’s continuing story of progress.

The full blog posting from Gina McCarthy, which is not much longer than the above text, is available at http://blog.epa.gov/epaconnect/, scrolling down to, or searching for, From Cutting Edge to Commonplace.

Green Living Show’s evolution

The 2014 edition of the Green Living Show, claiming to be North America’s largest, was held this past weekend. By the afternoon of the third day, Sunday, some exhibitors were commenting that they were hearing that the crowds were lighter than in past years and those visitors to whom GallonDaily spoke frequently commented that they did not think the show was as good as in past years. Many of the exhibitors to whom GallonDaily spoke said that they had not exhibited in past years, suggesting that exhibitor turnover is high.

There were certainly changes:

  • there were fewer large company pavilions than in the early years of this exhibition series – no Home Depot, no Loblaw, no Interface Flooring, and so on. Home Hardware had a small booth.
  • it felt as though there was more marketing of products, as in a typical consumer show, and somewhat less in the way of educational exhibits.
  • again it felt as though there were more booths selling personal care products and services and fewer selling or marketing products that help the environment.
  • even where products offered environmental benefits, for example as in organic food products, the emphasis tended towards supposed consumer and user health benefits rather than broader environmental benefits.
  • it appeared that the show was receiving less media coverage than in previous years, perhaps suggesting that the media believes that the public is less interested in green products than in previous years.

There is no universally accepted definition of green in the context of products but GallonDaily prefers an approach that considers a green product to be one that has qualities that will reduce the product’s environmental footprint or that will cause the product to be more consistent with the environmental, social, and economic, possibly also the cultural, aspects of Sustainable Development as defined by the World Commission on Environment and development. Thus, in GallonDaily’s opinion, such services and goods as yoga, organic cosmetics, socially advanced clothing, and home fragrances, all of which could be found at the Green Living Show, do not qualify as green. Indeed there were even some booths at the show which were selling products and services, such as saucepan sets, which did not even try to make green claims! The Tupperware booth claimed that its products were BPA free, something that they have almost certainly always been and for which most, if not all, competitors also qualify. Government rules in both Canada and the US prohibit environmental product claims where the claim is not actually describing an environmental benefit associated with that particular product.

However, green product shows almost always have some interesting products. Among those at Green Living which attracted Gallondaily’s attention were:

  • Ontario Tire stewardship showing garden mulch made from recycled tires
  • Boomerang brand recycled paint
  • a low voltage home wiring and control system from startup company Lumencache
  • Dormio organic beds
  • Dow brand solar shingles with Canadian installer Canadian Energy http://www.cdnrg.com
  • magnetic windows, for example to turn residential or commercial double glazing into triple glazing, from www.magneticwindows.net (we had those at Pollution Probe’s Ecology House in the 1980s)

GallonDaily was also interested to see a decent range of green cars on display and available to test drive.

Information about the show is at http://www.greenlivingshow.ca/. The exhibitor list, with weblinks to many of the exhibitors, is not so easy to find but is at http://www.greenlivingshow.ca/2014-exhibitor-list/.

Apple acts on climate change

Apple Inc. drew attention to its strong environmental campaign for Earth Day earlier this week. With a headline “Climate change is a real problem, so we are taking real action” Apple Canada has published an environmental web page that is, perhaps arguably, one of the strongest climate change action sites in the corporate world. Apple has similar but not identical environmental messages on its global site. To Gallondaily’s pleasure, the Canadian site focuses on climate change while the global site focuses on environmental footprint.

Apple Canada’s environmental responsibility web page highlights the following aspects, among others:

  • It takes an enormous amount of energy to design, assemble, ship and use hundreds of millions of products all over the world. A portion of that energy comes from burning fossil fuels, which creates carbon emissions. Those emissions make up our carbon footprint – our share of the climate change problem. We’re striving to reduce that footprint, and we’re making great progress. But there’s still a lot of work to be done.
  • We take a rigorous approach to measuring our environmental impact. In fact, we know of no other company in our industry that goes so far in measuring, verifying and disclosing its carbon emissions. Instead of reporting just the carbon footprint of the facilities we own, we also include the carbon footprint of our supply chain. And we don’t use generalized industry‑standard measurement models — we use a comprehensive product life cycle analysis that measures the carbon footprint throughout the entire life of our products, so everything is meticulously accounted for. That means adding up emissions generated from the manufacturing, transportation, use and recycling of our products, as well as emissions generated by all of our facilities. And while we’re constantly improving, we’re also constantly reporting — even when our numbers aren’t as good as we’d like them to be.
  • We’re always trying to improve the way we conduct our greenhouse gas life cycle analysis. And when our assessments reveal a material, process or system that’s making a significant negative impact on our carbon footprint, we re-examine how we design that product, process or facility.
  • Our goal is to power all Apple corporate offices, retail stores and data centres entirely with energy from renewable sources — solar, wind, micro-hydro and geothermal. We’re designing new buildings and updating existing ones to use as little electricity as possible. We’re investing in our own Apple onsite energy production as well as establishing relationships with third‑party energy suppliers to source renewable energy. As of 2013, we’ve already converted 73 percent of the energy for all our facilities — 86 percent for our corporate campuses and 100 percent for our data centres.
  • Like everything we build, our new Apple campus in Cupertino pushes the boundaries of technology — it will be the most energy‑efficient building of its kind.
  • A lot of the things that used to be done on a computer are now being done on an iPad or iPhone. Since these smaller devices use a lot less material and energy, their carbon footprint is much smaller than that of a computer. And as these devices become more and more advanced, their footprint continues to decrease as well.
  • Every Apple product not only meets but far exceeds the strict guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for energy efficiency.
  • All electronic waste we collect worldwide is processed in the region where it’s collected — nothing is shipped overseas for disposal. The vast majority of our recycling is handled in‑region, too, keeping our transportation‑related greenhouse gas emissions low. We currently work with 153 partners around the globe whose facilities are rigorously evaluated annually on health and safety, environmental compliance, material tracking, social responsibility and other Apple mandates.

The Apple.com environmental responsibility site highlights the following elements, again among others:

  •  We strive to create products that are the best they can be in every way. Products that are beautiful, easy to use, and powerful. And the same passion for innovation goes into how we think about environmental responsibility. It’s why we work tirelessly to reduce our impact on climate change, find ways to use greener materials, and conserve the resources we all need to thrive. And while we’re proud of the progress we’ve made, we know we can still do better. It won’t all happen overnight. But we can work to get better every day.
  • Many substances commonly used in the electronics industry can be harmful to people or the planet. So we design our products with cleaner, safer materials to reduce and eliminate these toxins. And we hold our suppliers accountable — we conduct factory audits, test components with independent laboratories, and verify the results in a lab we built at our headquarters in Cupertino. It’s our mission to make sure anyone who assembles, uses, and recycles an Apple product can do so safely.
  • We have one planet with a finite amount of resources on it, and we have a responsibility to conserve those resources so future generations will have them, too. So our resource conservation starts right from the beginning — in the design stage. We create compact products that are more material efficient and last longer before they need to be replaced. And when there is remnant material, we look for opportunities to reuse that material so it doesn’t go to waste. Even the paper we use for our product packaging, iTunes Gift Cards, and iPhoto products includes recycled or recyclable materials. We work directly with paper mills to source paper from certified sustainably managed forests and controlled wood sources. And once an Apple product reaches the end of its life, we make it easy to recycle. Every Apple Retail Store will now take back Apple products for free, responsible recycling. We also hold special recycling events where we’ll even accept other companies’ products.

See Apple’s environmental messages in much more detail at http://www.apple.com/ca/environment/climate-change/ and http://www.apple.com/environment/

The new Quebec government: environment and sustainable development priorities

With newly elected Quebec Liberal Premier today taking the reins of power with a majority government, GallonDaily thought it would be useful to review the Premier’s election promises in the area of environment and sustainable development. The Quebec Liberal Party did not publish a platform document in this election; the following election commitments are drawn from documents published on the Party’s website at http://www.plq.org/en/commitments. The commitments, in no particular order, are:

• reestablishing Quebec as a leader in the fight against GHGs, steering our economy toward clean energy and technology and making an Action Plan on Climate Change the centerpiece of our strategic approach to climate change.
• deploying the first Maritime Strategy in our history, developing intermodal transportation and coastal traffic and breathing new life into Quebec’s shipyards, with the combined goal of fostering economic growth and the reduction of the hydrocarbon emissions related to the transport of goods and people.
• seizing all opportunities arising from the development of maritime and environmental technologies.
• transporting merchandise in a safer and more ecological manner.
• assuring the sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture and working with the fishing industry towards new product development with a view to expanding exports to new markets.
• sharing royalties from the exploitation of mining, oil and gas resources with local and regional communities, including indigenous communities, so that all may share directly in the development of our natural resources.
• rapidly dealing with the problems of air quality in schools.
• providing immediate assistance to companies to get their innovative projects off the ground through an Investissement Québec-administered Créativité Québec (CQ) program. CQ, which will have a budget of $150 million, will provide direct subsidies, loans and investments to kick-start in any innovative project requiring at least $2 million, including the acquisition of new technology, production process upgrades and the development of new products.
• re-launching sustainable northern development with the re-launch of Plan Nord+
• encouraging the supply of natural gas north of the 49th parallel toward Sept-Iles to serve the North Shore, the last heavily industrial region still without this energy source.
• promoting an agreement of co-investment among businesses for the opening up of the “Labrador ditch” which would advance a rail connection linking the iron ore deposits with the port of Sept-Iles.
• re-launching the coastal trade project on the North Shore, in collaboration with St. Lawrence ship owners.
• launching a promotional campaign including the establishment of an international mining economics mission so to attract foreign investment and reassure the mining sector.
• appointing of a Minister for Forests, Wildlife and Parks to improve the productivity and competitiveness of Quebec forestry; promoting innovation; and developing forestry manpower.
• investing $225 million a year over five years in silvicultural projects, of which $170 million will be in non-commercial work.
• establishing financial support for the maintenance and development of multi-user forest roads to assure safe access for all users of the forests.
• improving the new forestry regime by reviewing all regulations relating to planning of works and the functioning of the Bureau de mise en marché des bois.
• reinforcing the links between the education milieu, universities and Cegeps, to develop programs in engineering and architecture that would promote the use of structural lumber.
• revisiting the practices of the Chief Forester so that there is more transparency and information when assessing forestry possibilities.
• assisting the industry and forest co-operatives in the renewal of forestry equipment, with loan guarantees.
• assuring stable financing for the private forestry industry.
• re-affirming the concept of local forests.
• continuing to support the promotion of the forest biomass.
• supporting the industry in the marketing of innovative products from the processing of wood as architectural elements and products derived from cellulose.
• establishing a refundable tax credit of up to 20% (to a maximum of $2,500) for work done to support families who seek to renovate their homes. To be eligible, all work must have been completed by December 31, 2016 and the minimum value of the work must be at least $3,000. The current green tax credit will be maintained until that program ends October 31, 2014 and following that all renovations aimed at increasing energy efficiency will be eligible for the new tax credit.
• supporting the development of the cruise business, as much in the matter of improved facilities for visitors, as port infrastructures. This strategy will also lead to more orders for shipyards.
• taking inspiration from the German model of trade schools to better integrate internships in companies into professional and technical training programs. In Germany, professional training is very highly regarded. Some 60% of under 20s head for a system described as “dual.” This system prescribes three years of training, two-thirds of which are spent in a company setting. This approach therefore relies on a partnership and division of costs between the State and the company.
• making buying locally easier, establishing a code of conduct calling for public institutions to purchase local food, strengthening Quebec’s strategic food positioning plan.
• helping Quebec cheesemakers penetrate new markets. It will demand reciprocity in terms of packaging design and food safety standards for imported cheese in connection with the Canada Europe Trade Agreement and will support Quebec cheesemakers in negotiations with the federal government for transitional compensation measures.
• making the development of a green economy a real social project and committing to maintaining, in this sense, a carbon market
• earmarking 10% of Quebec’s marine territory as protected marine areas by 2015.

Earth Day : not enough of a celebration in Canada

On April 1st 2009 the “news for the rest of us” website rabble.ca posted a story headlined Stephen Harper announces cancellation of Earth Day. It was, of course, an April Fool’s Day joke but by 2014 it seems to have come true without any action on the part of Canada’s government. Just to conclude the April 1st 2009 reference, rabble.ca reported that “Canada’s Conservative government, said Harper, will be introducing a motion in Parliament to cancel the April 22 celebration of Earth Day, replacing it with Oil Sands Day”.

Roaming around federal websites it is difficult to find any significant references to Earth Day. Environment Canada does have a link to Celebrate Earth Day on April 22. Find out how the Government of Canada is taking action today for a more environmentally-friendly and sustainable tomorrow but when you click on it you land on a boring web page with mostly old departmental sustainable development strategy reports, hardly inspirational material. It is almost as if the Prime Minister’s Office ordered federal ministers to pay no attention to Earth Day. Even Earth Day Canada, the ngo which seeks to drum up awareness of the environment for earth day, has only a few events listed on its calendar for April 22, though a few more are listed, 56 in all across the entire country, for other days in the month. South of the border, President Obama celebrated Earth Day by warning Americans of the disastrous consequences of climate change.

What’s gone wrong with Earth Day? In Gallondaily’s opinion:

  • the lack of federal government leadership on Earth Day and on the environment has virtually killed interest in Earth Day.
  • the relative success of Earth Hour, an irrelevant turning out of the lights for an hour back in March, has overwhelmed interest in Earth Day. Competition of this kind between rival environmental ngos is crazy and ultimately destructive to their cause.
  • perhaps most significantly, Earth Day Canada’s greed, understandable in a time of reduced funding for environmental causes but still unforgivable because of its impact in quashing corporate support for, and interest in, Earth Day is slowly killing the event. Some years ago Earth Day Canada trademarked the term Earth Day and the organization now prohibits companies from using it unless their activities are in line with Earth Day Canada objectives and they pay a fee to Earth Day Canada. Non-profits are still free to use it without payment of a fee. In the US the term is considered public domain and all kinds of companies, as well as communities and ngos, promote Earth Day in some form. Earth Day needs business much more than business needs Earth Day.

It is possible that it is time to bring Earth Day to a graceful end and GallonDaily would almost certainly urge that approach if it were not for the fact that Earth Day has a pretty good profile in many other countries. Environmental solutions need global co-operation. To demonstrate environmental co-operation and responsibility, Gallondaily recommends:

  • Earth Day Canada drop its control of use of the term Earth Day.
  • businesses resume their involvement in appropriate celebration of Earth Day in 2015.
  • the Prime Minister issue a statement of support for Earth Day.
  • WWF Canada merge Earth Hour with Earth Day into a more effective celebration of the environment.

With the above suggestions implemented it is possible that Earth Day in Canada can be got back on track. If not, let’s end it and find more effective ways of mobilizing public interest in, and support for, Canada’s environment.

The above is a GallonDaily original opinion.

Map of “high risk” chemical plants in the USA

Since 9/11 governments and industry have argued that information on toxic substance storage must be kept secure in order to reduce the risk that acts of terrorism will cause the release of harmful materials. This view has reversed the trend towards community right-to-know that was evolving prior to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Whatever the merits of the two philosophies, Greenpeace USA has broken the taboo by publishing a map of what it calls “high risk chemical plants” in the USA. The map includes facility names, community, and types of chemicals stored.

Greenpeace claims that:

  • One in three Americans is at risk of a poison gas disaster by living near one of hundreds of chemical facilities that store and use highly toxic chemicals.
  • A chemical disaster at just one of these facilities could kill or injure thousands of people with acute poisoning.
  • Of the 12,440 chemical facilities that report their chemical disaster scenarios to the Environmental Protection Agency, Greenpeace has identified 473 chemical facilities across the U.S. that each put 100,000 people or more at risk.
  • Of those, 89 put one million or more people at risk up to 25 miles downwind from a plant.

Greenpeace offers the following caveats to its map:

  • All data is based on hand-written notes taken from reports issued to the Environmental Protection Agency by owners and operators of facilities through the Risk Management Program.
  • Inaccuracies may occur from human error or may be out of date as these reports are updated sporadically by companies either every five years or when a process change occurs at a facility.
  • All data is current as of October 2011.

To GallonDaily’s knowledge, no similar mapping based on current data is available for Canada.

The map is available at http://usactions.greenpeace.org/chemicals/map/

Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls for climate change boycott

In an article in the UK newspaper The Guardian, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa, and Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu is calling for “an apartheid-style boycott to save the planet”.

Tutu makes the following points, among many others:

  • We must stop climate change. And we can, if we use the tactics that worked in South Africa against the worst carbon emitters.
  • Twenty-five years ago people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today we have no excuse. No more can it be dismissed as science fiction; we are already feeling the effects.
  • It is appalling that the US is debating whether to approve a massive pipeline transporting 830,000 barrels of the world’s dirtiest oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The pipeline will affect the whole world, our shared world, the only world we have. We don’t have much time.
  • [Our] responsibility that begins with God commanding the first human inhabitants of the garden of Eden “to till it and keep it”. To keep it; not to abuse it, not to destroy it.
  • During the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, using boycotts, divestment and sanctions, and supported by our friends overseas, we were not only able to apply economic pressure on the unjust state, but also serious moral pressure.
  • Those countries and companies primarily responsible for emitting carbon and accelerating climate change are not simply going to give up; they stand to make too much money. They need a whole lot of gentle persuasion from the likes of us.
  • People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change.
  • We cannot necessarily bankrupt the fossil fuel industry. But we can take steps to reduce its political clout, and hold those who rake in the profits accountable for cleaning up the mess.
  • It makes no sense to invest in companies that undermine our future. To serve as custodians of creation is not an empty title; it requires that we act, and with all the urgency this dire situation demands.

The complete article is available at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/10/divest-fossil-fuels-climate-change-keystone-xl

A top ten 10 list for energy planning

In celebration of the announcement earlier yesterday that Stephen Colbert would be taking over from David Letterman as host of The Late Show, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario shared with the closing plenary of the All-Energy Conference in Toronto his top ten list for energy planning in Ontario. GallonDaily believes that the list has applicability to many other jurisdictions, so we are presenting an abbreviated version of the Commissioner’s list here:

10.Plan on the basis of all fuels. We obsess on electricity planning, which is domestically produced, but Ontario’s energy planning often ignores petroleum fuels, which are imported.
9. Integrate the cost of carbon. Even Exxon is putting a shadow price for carbon in its long term planning. Ontario should do the same.
8. Provide transparency, honesty, and stakeholder participation in energy planning. Key word: honesty. Miller argues that governments and industry should respond to the misinformation that is controlling the public policy debate.
7. Take advantage of the technological opportunities that we have, including smart grid, energy storage, and waste heat.
6. Pursue building retrofits and building energy consumption labelling seriously.
5. Support geothermal and solar hot water.
4. Seize the low carbon opportunities in transportation, especially electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles and light and heavy rail.
3. Create an open policy forum in the energy sector.
2. Conservation first, everywhere: it’s the cheapest and best way forward.
1. Leadership: we need someone to show us the path forward, because we do not have a vision of where we are going.

This is a GallonDaily original post based on a presentation witnessed at the All-Energy Canada conference in Toronto on 10th April 2014.

Canadians interested in more energy efficiency

Elizabeth McDonald, President and CEO of the Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance, gave a fascinating presentation to the All-Energy Canada conference in Toronto today.

In public opinion research commissioned by CEEA and undertaken by Gandalf Research:

  • More than half of Canadians (58 per cent) said they are doing some things to conserve energy, but will likely do more.
  • Just over one third of Canadians said they have done a great deal to conserve energy in the last year.
  • When asked what the benefits of conserving their energy would be, 86 per cent of Canadians said saving money; 49 per cent said helping the environment.
  • One third of Canadians said they haven’t done more to conserve energy because of cost.
  • One quarter of Canadians have had an energy audit done, or participated in a rebate program.
  • 81 per cent of Canadians said that developing technologies that reduce energy consumption is very important.

Lots more in the slide deck for the presentation which is available at http://energyefficiency.org/resources/reports .Click on All Energy Conference Presentation: Making Energy Efficiency Work.

The All-Energy Canada conference is a partnership between the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, the Canadian Solar Industries Association, and Reed Exhibitions. This article is posted by GallonDaily directly from the All-Energy Canada 2014 conference floor.